Ruin as Archive

Ruin as Archive

Vivan Sundaram explores debris and decay to trace the passage of time, says Mario D’Souza.

Vivan Sundaram. Untitled

Vivan Sundaram. Untitled, VII from the series Work of Termites. Pigment print. 10” x 17”. 2019. Photographs courtesy Vivan Sundaram/ PHOTOINK.

Artefacts and other historical material help question usable pasts – what is significant and may be included in the narrative of history. In 2007, an archaeological team investigated the areas in and around Pattanam, Kerala, and unearthed evidence of Muziris, an ancient harbour, seaport and urban centre on the Malabar Coast. The diverse objects established Muziris’ erstwhile relationship with the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean rims. Central to this port city that famously exported pepper to the Roman Empire was the Periyar river, the lifeline of this trade. Periyar is also suspected to have destroyed Muziris in the 1300s due to devastating floods.